Weekly Reading Insights: Vayelech

Overview of the Weekly Reading

Torah: Deut. 31:1-31:30
Haftorah: Hosea 14:2-10, Joel 2:15-27 (for "Return, O Israel")



"Assemble the people: the men, the women, and the infants." (31:12)
According to the book, Minchat Chinuch (mitzvah #414), even a new-born is included in this commandment. We may understand from this that the education of a Jewish child in Torah and mitzvot should begin on the day he or she is born!
(Likutei Sichos) [translated from Sichat HaShavuah #301]

"Because my G-d is not in the midst of me, that these evils have overtaken me." (31:17)
The Baal Shem Tov used to say that if one sees something bad in someone else, it is a sign that an element of the same negative trait exists in the person finding fault. It is as if one is looking into a mirror and sees his own reflection. Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch added his interpretation on this verse: "Because my G-d is not in the midst of me - because my own face is dirty and my own connection to G-d and holiness is flawed, "have these evils overtaken me" - that is why I find fault in others.
(From L'Chaim 890)

"And they will say that day : because my G-d is no longer with me, these evils have befallen us." (Deut. 31:17)
Every Jew has to believe that G-d lives within him and that He is with him in times of trouble, G-d forbid. It is only when his faith weakens and when he starts to doubt whether G-d is with him-only then: 'these evils have befallen us.'
(from Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Psischah) (translated from Sichat HaShavuah 92)

They will say on that day, "Is it not because my G-d is not in the midst of me" (Deut. 31:17)
This verse does not refer to one who denies that there is a Creator in the world; rather, it refers to one who believes that G-d exists, but that "G-d is not in the midst of me." He imagines that G-d exists on so high a plane that He does not deign to intervene in our puny concerns. G-d is an active participant in our lives and oversees every detail of our daily lives. Our behavior should reflect our awareness of this.
(Otzarenu Hayashan)

"I will certainly hide (lit. "hide I will hide") My face on that day." (31:18)
Twice "hide" because there will come a time at the end of the exile when G-d's concealment will be two-fold. Not only will He be "hidden" within the physical world, but His concealment will be so great that people will cease to realize that anything is hidden! Nonetheless, there is no concealment capable of separating the Jew from G-d. The same "I" Who hides His face is the same "I" Who uttered the Ten Commandments, and dwells in the heart of every Jew.

"Hiding" generally implies that we do not know where the other person is. However if we know that the person is on the other side of the obstacle, and it is merely that we do not see him, he is not truly hidden. G-d is encouraging us: Even though I am not visible I am standing close by.
(The Baal Shem Tov)

"And I, hide I shall hide…." [31:18]
This can be interpreted, "I will hide the hidden." Chassidim hide in poor, non-descript clothing, and people misunderstand and it never occurs to them that in the least impressive appearance is hidden the source of goodness and kindness.

Baal Shem Tov [translated from Sichat HaShavuah #456]

"You have been rebellious with G-d." (31:27)
It doesn't say "against G-d," but "with G-d." With every improper thing we do we cause G-d to be a partner. This is especially true when we do these things in the name of a commandment or turn a bad deed into a commandment!

"Call heaven and earth to witness against them." (31:28)
They, the Jewish people, will be My witnesses, testifying that I created heaven and earth. For it is through the Jews that the world comes to know that G-d is the Creator and that He constantly oversees His handiwork.
(Chidushei Harim)



Anxiously anticipating Mashiach actually accelerates his arrival. When we become a living Torah, we facilitate fulfillment of the Torah's purpose, namely, Redemption. This theme of unity, of oneness with the Torah can be found in this week's Torah reading, Vayeilech. At the end of Moses's life "the traditions and fountains of wisdom were closed" to him. This indicated a transmission of leadership to Joshua. The central attribute of Moses is truth, which defines Torah. Because of his unity with Torah, affecting any part of Torah affected Moses as well. As Moses was a living Torah, so Moshiach will be a living Torah. And to the extent that we incorporate this, make ourselves a living Torah, we reveal the aspect of Moses, the spark of Moshiach, within ourselves.
(Adapted from shluchim.org)

"On that day, Moses wrote down this song, and he taught it to the Israelites" (31:22)
The Baal Shem Tov taught that when the Messiah arrives, he will explain the entire Torah from the perspective of each and every letter, starting from the first letter of the Torah to the last. Then he will join all the letters together into one long Name of G-d and explain the entire Torah from the total perspective. Meaning to say, first he will explain the Torah according to the unique view of every individual, so that each one will hear an explanation of Torah that rings harmoniously with the root of his soul. Then he will join all the letters together, and reveal the unity of the entire Jewish People through the Torah.
(Eliezer Shore-Bas Ayin)

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